How to Pick the Best Watch Strap for Summer

Step 1: Retire the leather. You’ll ruin it.

By Ed Estlow

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13 July 2017

Maybe summer isn’t the time for skin-on-skin contact.

Meaning: your favorite leather watch band might not be the right fit for your wrist during sweaty season.

So today, our resident chronography expert dives into the best watch straps for warmer months, from a $12 nylon number that’s James Bond- and Special Forces-approved to a line of bands crafted from recycled ‘70s parachutes.

Bonus: one of the quickest ways to extend your watch wardrobe without forking over hundreds (or tens of thousands) is to change out the bracelet for a strap.

Your wrist options:

NATO Straps

NATOs are one of the least expensive options going. They’re tough, colorful and to the point. In fact, it’s the strap of James Bond. Leave out colorful and you’ve got the strap of Special Forces around the world.

They’re made by countless makers in countless colors. NATOs are typically nylon, but some brands are producing leather versions, which will dress your watch up for a (cooler) night on the town.

They’re also easy to change (it takes about 30 seconds), so you can match them to your outfit. Cheap too: $12 to $20, so acquiring a number of options won't drive you to the piggy bank with a hammer in hand. Crown & Buckle and Toxic NATOs are a couple of brands we recommend.

Rubber Straps

At $125-$225, these straps are not your cheapest option, but they will highlight your watch’s sporty vibe. They come in several colors and they’re impervious to sweat.

One company, Everest Bands, specializes in rubber straps for Rolex (admittedly, the Rollies are a bit odd: each model requires a unique fit). Others, like ISOfrane, are an age-old dive watch choice. These straps were created in the 1960s and definitely mean business. They have a distinct Jacques Cousteau/Sea Hunt (ask your dad) quality about them.

Tropic Straps

A variant of the rubber strap is the tropic strap, which has even more of a 1960s throwback vibe. You can pay $60 or more on eBay for one, or you can hit the flea markets and rummage sales and pick up old broken dive watches for a song and harvest them from there.

Other Options

This one’s a niche (read: watch nerd) favorite on Instagram: The ultra-comfortable elastic Marine Nationale straps from Erika op den Kelder. Erika is from the Netherlands, but these days she lives in Spain. Her straps hark back to the straps French Marine Nationale divers of yesteryear made for their service issue watches. And indeed, Erika makes her MN straps from actual 1970s parachute strap material.

For quite a while you could get any color you wanted ... as long as it was olive drab with a single yellow stripe. But now Erika has branched out into numerous thread colors and buckle metals, and she’s managed to source black material as well as olive.

These straps are about as comfortable as watch straps get, and at about $55 with free worldwide shipping, there’s no reason not to be comfortable this summer.

Back on Metal

Finally, there’s a saying among watch nerds regarding their favorite sport watches: No matter the season or the strap, they somehow always end up back on metal. Bracelet, that is.

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